Sound on Sound, May 2005
This title aimed squarely at fans of West-Coast hip-hop has been produced by Keith 'Clizark' Clark, a man who already has 10 million record sales to his name having worked with such names as Snoop Dogg and the Eastsidaz. The single split-format disc acts as both a normal audio CD and a WAV CD-ROM (all samples are duplicated in both formats), and the audio comprises 20 construction kits followed by a small group of additional synth samples.
The construction kits cover tempos of 93-103bpm, and each track begins with a mixed track featuring MPC-style sampled drums, bass, synths, and some guitars - this lasts less than a minute. Most of these mixes exude an understated yet powerful menace which would be well complemented by the kind of smoothly murderous rapping that Snoop Dogg has nailed. The rhythm programming is beautifully done, creating that head-nodding momentum that so often seems to separate the hits from the 'B' sides - the fact that Clizark has made this difficult task sound so easy here should leave no-one in any doubt as to his production chops!
Although the style of all the tracks is quite sparse, this is definitely part of Clizark's trademark sound, and you'd have no trouble transforming any of these mixes into a finished production with just a bit of editing and the addition of some vocals. The solid basses doubtless account for some of this gravitas, especially as they have been shrewdly chosen to complement the kick drum in each case. However, it's the meaty drum sounds which really carry each track and which are the obvious highlight of Platinum Essentials to my ear: just the right amount of attack to sound punchy, just the right amount of mid-range and sustain to provide body, and just the right amount of low end to anchor everything firmly. You could spend a great deal of time trying to obtain drum sounds as good as on even one of these construction kits, and you get 20 different sets here. If they had Desert Island Discs with sample CDs, including this one would be a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned!
Clearly, then, I was delighted to find that all the drum loops and single hits from each full mix were included in each construction kit. However, I wasn't quite as delighted to find that this was pretty much all that was provided in the way of separate elements - none of the guitar licks, synth pads, and other pitched samples which had helped round out the mixed tracks so successfully. Anyone expecting a more traditional construction-kit format would justifiably feel a little cheated. The small selection of synth multisamples at the end of the CD help make up for this a bit by including ten rather nice sets of 'one note per octave' bass-synth samples, which are pretty much to the standard of the drum sounds. However, the other synth sounds are a wash-out, and don't sit well against the rest of the library content.
If it weren't for the bargain UK price, I'd be rather in two minds about giving Platinum Essentials as a whole our top star rating. On the one hand there are drum sounds here which would outshine many five-star releases; on the other, the incomplete track breakdowns, measly 32-minute running time, and wafer-thin documentation leave me with a sneaking feeling that someone's having a laugh! The bottom line for me, though, is that the drums and basses are worth the mockery, and at this price that's got to mean five stars.